I’m a little bit crafty. I love beautiful, handmade items. I knit as a hobby and especially appreciate hand knits.
But I almost never give an item I’ve knitted as a gift. And that’s because I’ve seen among my clients a real difficulty in giving up an item that was a gift. And it’s even harder to give up hand-made gifts, even if they’ve never been used or loved. Sometimes the gift recipient just doesn’t share the taste of the giver.
I hate to urge people not to give handmade gifts, because I think they can be so wonderful. (I do actually gift knitted items to people who have specifically asked for them.)
The current (December 2013) issue of Martha Stewart Living magazine has an article on creating hand-made gifts. The photos are scrumptious.
This bacon jam looks delicious!
My big takeaway from the article is that there’s a wonderful middle ground between my reticence to give handmade gifts and my appreciation for the warmth and love behind handmade gifts. And that’s giving homemade edibles or other consumables. Gifts like homemade cookies, soap, condiments (bacon jam!), or the creative aromatics pictured below are fabulous ideas.
Aromatic extracts: An unusual handmade gift
One year I gave away home-baked dog treats to my friends with dogs. (If that idea appeals to you, check out my dog-treat cookbook, You Bake ‘Em Dog Biscuits Cookbook). Another year I made and gave away biscotti. I remember the year my husband was in culinary school, he made gorgeous molded chocolates for gifts.
Making and giving a consumable gift is a great idea for those who feel the urge to make something for their loved ones. It’s a gift that will surely be appreciated. And one that won’t become clutter.
Photos by Maria Robledo. Courtesy of Martha Stewart Living. Copyright © 2013. For the instructions on making bacon jam and aromatic extracts (and other great things), see Love to Give: Handmade Holiday Gifts.
I’ve been away from home about a week visiting family in Washington state. After a couple of half-days of travel, I’ll be home on Saturday. This blog post, which I wrote a couple of years ago at the end of the trip, reflects how I still feel about getting back into the swing of things. I’m happy to say that I didn’t leave my office in such disarray this time, but I am coming to a full week of client appointments. My routines will keep me sane!
I’m a huge believer in the value of routines. They keep my life running smoothly. But right now, my routines are all messed up. I was away for a week, attending the ICD conference. Then I was home for four days and too busy to focus on my surroundings. Then I left home for a lovely, relaxing weekend in Nashville with friends.
I’m writing this from the hotel in Nashville, anticipating going home. Unfortunately, I left my office in such disarray that it looks like I need the help of a professional organizer. Serious, long-term help. The place is a wreck. I’d love to tackle it as soon as I get home. But I have some urgent items on my to-do list, like finalizing a talk I’m giving in two days. And finishing up a new Organizing Guide (on Bingo!) that I want to offer.
But I know the minute I step into the office it’s going to really bug me. Like many of my clients, I feel myself falling into the trap of feeling like I need to put aside a half day or more to do the job justice. But of course that’s not necessary. If I simply set my timer for 15, or perhaps 30, minutes, I’ll create enough order to give myself peace of mind. It’d be nice to do a thorough sprucing up. But all I need is a modicum of order to get my sanity back. I can always snatch pockets of time to keep working on it throughout the week.
The other key to recapturing and maintaining my sanity will be to get back in the groove of my routines. For me, that means clearing off my desk every night, as well as beating my email back into submission and maintaining inbox zero daily I also need to get back into my morning exercise routine. And daily litter-box and yard-scooping. Those habits are so ingrained that it should be easy to get back into them. And it’s amazing how much I miss them when I’m away (well, maybe not the poop scooping).
I have an Inbox Zero policy that I dearly love. It’s typically easy for me to maintain and keeps me feeling under control.
But stuff happens. My brother came to visit and then he and I traveled to Walla Walla, Washington, to visit our parents. I’ve been doing little more than glancing at email for the last ten days.
This morning, despite still being away, I decided to put my work hat back on. When I focused on my inbox, I found 183 messages. Seeing those 183 messages made me feel stressed and overwhelmed. And it made me want to walk away from my computer.
This served as an important reminder of how easy it is to get overwhelmed by email overload. And it’s also an important reminder of the value of dealing with my email every day.
Instead of walking away, though, I decided to set a timer and tackle the inbox. The first go around, I set it for 15 minutes. In that time, I went from 183 to 72 messages. I answered a few, but deleted or filed most. That felt a little better, but I knew I had to get it down to 15 or under if I was going to have some peace of mind. Only nine minutes later, I was down to 10 messages.
Of course, those 10 messages are the ones that will require a little effort to handle. But stripping away the others has clarified what I need to do and eliminated that overwhelming feeling. What a relief.
I now know that I can answer those 10 messages today and reinstate my empty inbox policy. It literally took 24 minutes of focused effort.
If your inbox is full, maybe you can set your timer for 15 (0r 24) minutes and see how many emails you can file or delete. I hope you’re pleasantly surprised.
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. What’s not to love about a holiday that asks us to express our gratitude for our good fortune? I also love that it’s about good food, family, and community.
As I have in some Thanksgivings past I’d like to express here my gratitude for some of the many fortunate things in my life.
This year, I’m grateful for:
- My family and friends. My brother is visiting from Australia as I write this and we’re enjoying a rare 2+ weeks long visit together. I’ve loved watching him interact with my husband (they are so different from one another but having fun together). I’m also grateful for the wonderful friends with whom we’ll share Thanksgiving dinner today.
- My clients. I am so fortunate to have amazing clients who appreciate the help I give and also teach me so much.
- My team members. I’ve been leading organizing teams more than ever this year and I’m continually amazed at what a group of talented organizers can accomplish. We have so much fun while making a great impact.
- My good health. I’m 51 now and am trying harder to exercise and eat right and I’m so grateful that I have managed to avoid any kind of serious illness.
- My iPhone 4S and Kindle Paperwhite. I use these two devices daily and have a hard time imagining life without them.
- The marvelous genealogy community. My blog, Organize Your Family History,, has been around almost a year and a half and I’m gratified that people are reading it. And some of them comment. I can’t wait to attend my first big genealogy conference in February!
- Heated seats. My new-to-me 2008 Honda CR-V has heated seats. Honestly, I don’t know how (or why) I got along without them before! I love my heated seats with a fiery passion.
I hope you take the opportunity today to take stock of the things in your life you’re grateful for (and that it’s easy to come up with the list!). Happy Thanksgiving!
I love giving gifts that leave no clutter footprint. If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you know that every year this time of year I blog about giving gifts that don’t create clutter.
A couple of years ago, in my clutter-free gift giving blog post, I mentioned that Amazon Prime, the service that provides free two-day shipping, free streaming of select movies and TV shows and the Kindle lending library, was not available as a gift. That was disappointing, because I thought it would make a great clutter-free present. (It costs $79 a year.)
Today I noticed that Amazon Prime is indeed available as a gift! I love it as a gift idea. I realize that it will allow your gift recipients easier access to clutter, due to the free shipping, but at least you’re not giving them items they’ll have difficulty letting go of.
This week I was faced with a tough decision. I’d been contacted by very nice prospective client who is truly ready for (and needs) help. But there was circumstance about her environment that made me uncomfortable.
I was torn between wanting to help her (and be paid for it) and not wanting to expose myself to a certain aspect of the job. I told her I’d think about it and let her know.
Today was the day I needed to reply. When I sat with it and envisioned the anxiety I’d feel prior and during the work, I realized that my comfort and safety had to outweigh the pain of disappointing her.
In other words, I did a gut check. And I’ve learned through the years to listen to my gut.
How about you? Do you follow your gut? And have you, like me, learned to regret ignoring it?
It can be overwhelming when you know guests are coming and your home doesn’t feel quite up to snuff. (My brother’s visit has me scurrying around taking care of small decluttering projects.)
I feel really fortunate to have the tools available to me to declutter and organize my home when I’ve let things get out of hand. But I know from my clients that it’s really easy to look around a room and have no idea where to begin. And I also see the stress brought on by just shoving stuff in bags and boxes and stashing them away. (I can’t tell you how many of those bags and boxes I’ve helped clients go through, sometimes years later.)
Here’s somethings that can help. It’s Quick Clutter Fix, a seven-step process that helps you get your home ready for guests without creating more stuff to deal with down the road. It comes in the form of a 8.5-minute audio and pdf outline that I created with my Declutter Happy Hour partner, Shannon Wilkinson. It tells you how to whip your house into shape in short sessions, giving you a clear idea of exactly where to start and what to do.
And here’s the best part: Quick Clutter Fix is free! Just sign up and you’ll receive a download link. Soon you’ll be able to shed that overwhelmed feeling and happily welcome your guests.